So if you’re someone like me who’s still pretty much trying to figure life out, having children of your own is probably still far down on your list. At this point, I can’t even imagine myself being a mother. Some days, I can barely find my car in a crowded parking lot; you’re telling me someday I might have to hunt for my car in a parking lot…while carrying a baby? Today is not the day and 2017 is not the year. Most days I’m content with being the cool older cousin or the cool sister to my younger siblings. I get to buy them ice-cream and chocolates in exchange for lavish kisses and then dump them back into the arms of their parents the moment everything starts to backfire. It’s great!
But what happens when someone who isn’t related to you entrusts their offspring into your care? You can’t boss these kids around like you would with your relatives and you can’t sit them down with writing exercises and treat the whole night like one long tutoring session, which means you actually have to watch them. Here are the five stages you go through while babysitting when don’t know the first thing about children:
- This isn’t so bad!
You tackle the night ahead with enthusiasm and vigour. The children will love you and you will love them, that is your mantra. Loaded with an entire bag’s worth of colouring books, activities and stickers, you roll up your sleeves and sit on the floor, oohing and ahhing indulgently at everything that you’re summoned to watch. From watching some crazy dance routine from beginning to end, five times in a row, to watching two toy fire engines crash, you’re the World’s Best Audience and you devote all your energy and attention unto them.
But those supplies that you brought? Twenty minutes in and they’re already bored of them. A crumpled cover of Princess Sophia’s colouring book that you chose with love earlier in the afternoon stares at you forlornly on the floor. These kids are out for sweat and they’re going to get it from you, whether you like it or not.
- Okay, it’s getting a little tiring here.
You start searching online for “things to do when babysitting” and all the results are so kumbaya you can’t even fathom implementing these activities. Building a fort, obstacle courses, a treasure hunt?! There is no amount of energy drinks in the world that can rouse you into doing any of these. With this resignation, comes the beginning of games such as the “quiet game” or the “tidy game”, all of which the children are more than happy to lose at.
- I need some fresh air. BRB. Oh wait.
Here it is; your first glimpse of your very first dilemma as a future parent. Where do you put the kids when you need some alone time? Is there a special box or cube that every parent gets at the beginning for when they need to take a breather? If there is, you weren’t briefed on it. You take a deep breath and realize you have a while more to go. Now seems like a good idea for a field trip to the convenience store two minutes away!
Forty five minutes later, you and the troops arrive back home with a fresh armload of snacks, drinks and low-sugar candy. Now what?
- An hour more to go. How long can an hour be?
Actually, pretty darn long. You start doing that thing where you nonchalantly go about your business, colour in a picture of Moana, make some enthusiastic engine sounds with a toy truck and then suddenly throw a death stare at the clock, hoping to scare it into jumping a good few minutes faster. But to no avail, only three actual minutes have passed in the span of the forty imaginary minutes since you last checked. Back to the kids’ drawing board for you.
- Start calling your friend’s number.
Five minutes to go before when your friends said they’d be back. You call them just in case they’ve had such a great night that they spontaneously decide to renew their vows and elope, conveniently forgetting about their children and leaving them in the care of their last-known guardian—you. They finally pick up on the second try and they’re already on their way home. You try to sound casual but really, the only thing that’s masking the sound of your own crying is the sound of the children’s own whiny cries in the background.
It’s okay, kids, help is coming.